June 8th, 2010
How to be a Guerilla Artist

(originally published in 2006)
Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. My current fascination with it stems from a belief in the importance of making art without attachment to the outcome. To do something that has nothing to do with making money, or listening to the ego.

My first experience with being a guerilla artist was in my first year of art school in a class taught by conceptual artist Shirley Yanover. One of our assignments was to create some form of graffiti in a public place (we were allowed to choose the were and how). We went out in groups of four, (two lookouts, and two painters), and proceeded to make our mark on various blank walls across the city. The experience made me terrified and exhilarated at the same time. I wrote quotes from various authors along the bottoms of buildings, on phone booths, and on the sidewalks. I remember the feeling of daring as we sprinted away from unsuspecting police officers.

Now I am not necessarily advocating that you do anything illegal or potentially life threatening. But there is something wonderfully sneaky about leaving some form of art in public places. I like knowing that at some point in time someone might receive a little surprise in the form of a random message from a stranger, or a doodle in an unexpected place. I remember there used to be an artist in Toronto who would bolt text books and old phone books to various things. It became a personal quest of mine to find them all, and I always felt so excited when a new one showed up just under my nose. Experiment with your own ideas.

Possible Formats

1. Sidewalk chalk
2. Sticker art
3. Flyers/posters (see “make a flyer of your day” at learningtoloveyoumore. Here is mine, page 1, page 2, page 3.
4. Journals (pass it on)
5. Zines
6. Object leave behinds (money, gifts, junk)
7. Notes (slogans)
8. Graffiti
9. Book inserts (library)
10. Book leave behinds (bookcrossing)
11. Letters (possibly love letters to strangers)
12. The age old ‘message in a bottle’, or a balloon. Or if you are really adventurous you might be drawn to carrier pigeons.

Potential Ideas for subject matter

-any form of artwork (drawings, collage, doodles, paintings)
-good luck charms
-variations on a theme
-many guerilla artist are politically motivated and find that being anonymous allows them to be more controversial or extreme with their message. Popular with activists.

Jun 20 2010
9:01 pm
nellie agbulos writes:

this is PURE genius :)

after visiting your site through a click-through link at pikaland’s 9 tips to be more creative (a blog post on etsy), i had no idea what was in store for me. everything you write comes from the heart and is simply fabulous :) you’re so inspiring, and you have an awesome sense of humour. thanks for sharing!

Jul 18 2010
10:10 pm
Nina writes:

This is great!!

Surprising and simple art that does not necessitate something for something can be liberating and fun!

Right now, I leave little cartoons and drawings on my coworkers’ desks, particularly on their birthdays. Drawings will include things I know about them, things they like, favorite foods, activities, stores, etc. It’s personal, simple, and an easy way to share that I care. Of course, they do find out it’s from me eventually, but it’s pretty fun nonetheless.

Aug 11 2010
6:43 am
claire writes:

You’re such a huge inspiration to me. Great advice. Thank you so much

Sep 11 2010
4:09 pm
Clay writes:

I recently met someone who I have begun to find quite inspiring. As her idea, we have dedicated ourselves to being fearless in small ways. Nothing life threatening or wreckless, just not being afraid of life and what it has to offer. I think that your website has many ideas that are either fearless or can lead to fearlessness. I think that my nueva amiga and I will give some a try. Cool site!

Sep 16 2010
11:05 am
tania writes:

I love your site!!! lindo todo!!!

Oct 6 2010
3:34 am
David R Bellairs writes:

Always nice to find a kindred spirit. Now off to Amazon to order your books!

Thanks for being you.

Big love from Lancashire. x

Oct 20 2010
2:06 pm
Erica writes:

I just bought your book, The Guerilla Art Kit, yesterday. It’s so inspirational! After reading the book, I immediately began my journey as a guerilla artist. Last night, I made little slips of paper with messages like “You are loved!” and “You are beautiful!” I plan on leaving these around town for people to find and (hopefully) enjoy.

Oct 21 2010
11:13 am
Grace writes:

This is the kind of stuff I see all over the interweb and sometimes in real life. I’m taking a very advanced art class at school and I don’t know how to explain that this is what I want my art to be Now I just need to show my class this.
I found this when I stumbledupon your 100 ideas, which I have posted on my blog and am currently checking off each thing I do. Thank you for your inspiration!

Jan 15 2011
4:22 pm
macy writes:

i’m gonna go with my friend chalking in a while, we’re just gonna leave positive messages or cute little doodles on people’s driveways. i just wanna brighten people’s days.

Feb 1 2011
4:58 pm
Joy writes:

I have no words to explain how much this inspires me. I just think this is GREAT.

Feb 14 2011
7:01 am
Camilla writes:

Amazingly inspiring.

Feb 18 2011
8:27 am
Camilla writes:

P.s. what art school did Shirley Yanover teach with?

Feb 22 2011
1:39 pm
kerismith writes:

She taught at OACAD in Toronto, Canada.

Mar 4 2011
1:42 pm
Sheena writes:

You are Awesome!!!

Mar 7 2011
2:58 pm
Rhianna writes:

Writing a note for someone to find right now! It feels good! I hope it brightens their day!

Mar 10 2011
12:29 pm
Natalie writes:

I love your website and your books! So many great ideas! Just curious, do you have guerilla art activities that you would recommend for middle school students? I have an afterschool club, and I’m looking for art-based activities that would be accesible to a range of students. Thank you!

Mar 16 2011
12:59 am
Mirella Trozzo writes:

Hello, I came across your site as a result of seeing an article in Cloth Paper Scissors on Guerrilla Art and it fascinated me because first of all, I LOVE Art, I LOVE the whole premise of Guerrilla Art and I am on a committee right now that is trying to fight a possible closure of our only high school. I have experimented in various art forms,most recently mixed media. Our committe is hosting a round table forum to get people in our community to come up with some ways to diversify our school to keep it open. The art teacher at our high school has offered to let us use supplies, and I know that there is lots of talent there. Do you have any ideas for our high school students on how to visualize their disdain for this possible closure via their art? I would like to have their artwork on the tables when we begin the forum, as well as have it throughout the centre. I would really appreciate any other ideas that you may have. Thank you very much. I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. Mirella

Apr 10 2011
1:42 am
Paula writes:

You are like my twin. You creativity makes me smile. You’re simply amazing (:

Thanks you for writing Wreck This Journal. It has helped my lifee.

Jul 20 2011
2:39 pm
Selina writes:

Hi, Thanks for this blog – just to let you know in September when I go back to school for the new term I will be encouraging (making) my year 7 pupils undertake a guerilla art project! Mwah hahahahaaaa!!! I got told the theme for our first project will be banksy ( a wee bit overdone – however still fantabulous) soooo i delved a little deeper and font it was a part of this art movement. Well long story short – as I am a textiles teacher i will hopefully get my loverly kiddy twinks to cover trees in textiles around the trunk and branches, plus make a field of textile flowers :D I have 60 pupils so if they only made 2 each that would be loads and i will get them to install it one dark night after school and not tell anyone about it —- ooooo this is gonna be great hehehe – welcome to secondary school kids – now is the time to rebel hehehe! x x x

Jul 25 2011
4:05 pm
Maddy writes:

I love this! I got the idea in Judy Moody and the not bummer summer and google it, and found this!

Sep 9 2011
10:49 am
Diana Zipeto writes:

Hi Keri! I have been reading your book on Guerilla Art and have tried some of my own and wanted to share. I just posted about it and your book on my blog: http://dianasketches.blogspot.com/
I also have given your book Wreck this Journal to my niece. I have to check up on her progress.

Sep 30 2011
1:44 am
Mary writes:

I’m very inspired to carry out a “guerilla art attack” in my town. I am located near a large city and in another state. We are separated by a large river. The problem is that the “large city” overshadows our smaller town and our creative community. We struggle with making our “place” known and respected. But I am not going to the large city where somewhat of an attitude exists. We will be our own amazing artist’s community and I won’t give up on that. So I dream of guerilla art attacks because of the array of reactions that come of it. Little or big, subtle or brash, look out and look around Vantucky!

Oct 6 2011
5:13 pm
Carmen writes:

Hi Keri! I really love your books. I’ve been working with Wreck this Journal, Mess, Finish this book and I’m going to get This is not a book and The Guerilla Art Kit. The last one excites me because I would love love to express mi thoughts with the world (in a good form, of course) and you’re such an inspiration to me. Continue writing!

Oct 9 2011
3:33 pm
Suvrux writes:

Love guerilla art. Great way to express yourself. Its also great to make people you don’t know have a little buzz inside themselves. I’ve just started leaving spray painted mountain side bonsai trees in my area. Follow on youtube and twitter (suvrux). Spread the karma it can only be a good thing. Buying your book tomorrow.

Oct 30 2011
12:14 pm
rouge writes:

i love guerilla art. I was watching a movie with my little sister and saw it in there. Some llady painted trashcan lids and put them on top of the lion heads at the library

Dec 7 2011
9:06 pm
caroline writes:

i saw that movie too Judy MOody and the NOT Bummer Summer

Feb 8 2012
3:32 pm
Magdalena writes:

your guerilla art book is fantastic and i have desided to base my english speech on it. I have not yet used it and am waiting for the chance to do so. I also have the exploration book of yours and have already used it multiple times. They are both the best books i have ever used twords art.

Mar 7 2012
8:31 am
Sara writes:

I just ordered The Guerilla Art Kit on Amazon. Amazing! I haven’t even had it shipped to me yet and already I’ve been leaving notes and messages around my school. I’ve got my friends in on it too, and one of my teachers found a note of mine and actually liked it! My creative flow just has not stopped, and when I go on a trip next week I’m going to bring TGAK and put up some guerilla art everywhere I go.

May 5 2012
7:40 pm
Amy w writes:

Hi keri!
I simply love your books. I got the guerilla art kit and how to be an explorer of the world! I am enjoying them so much! I went guerilla rating yesterday and brought a friend. It was so much fun! I might email u pictures to show u what an inspiration u r to me . Thanks

May 10 2012
7:15 pm
madison writes:

I have been so bored all my life intill I found out about guerilla art, so I gave it a try & I’ve been stuck with it for the rest of my life.Guerilla art is such an amazing thing because you get to do art and let others injoy it as much as you’ve injoyed making it.

May 23 2012
2:52 pm
Zerb writes:

Last week I hid a box of chalk and then drew a big arrow on the sidewalk saying “look here” Along with the chalk I included a log book for people to sign their names and take a piece of chalk. I want to encourage anyone of any age to go outside and have fun! :D

Jun 8 2012
8:56 pm
lexi writes:

hey i actually havent tried guerilla art yet but i would relly like to try it:)₰✐✍

Jun 12 2012
4:59 pm
Karen writes:

Great idea! I didn’t know it had a name; I’ve secretly left handcrafted jewelry behind, mostly at the gift corner of a not-for-profit theater. I called it shopgifting. Maybe I’ll do it again.

Sep 3 2012
7:14 am
Bindi writes:

Love your site and the way you are showing us doors into the creative pond for every type of person! I personaly make paintings and hange them all over one of the largest cities in the Netherlands and dabble in stencils in the biggest gallery of the world… walls everywere across the planet.

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